Weekly Review October 3-7

Last week we spoke to the impact that mobile technology can have for development. For the same reasons, our other investment focus is alternative energy. While alternative energy is traditionally expensive, many social entrepreneurs are creating clever financing models that deliver clean energy at an affordable price. The following articles detail why and how alternative energy can create such a significant impact at the BoP in emerging markets.

Could a Pay-as-You-Go Model Convince People to Go Solar?” by Sarah Laskow on GOOD Magazine
GOOD Magazine spotlights Paul Needham, co-founder of Simpa Networks, our portfolio company, and a member of the Class of 2011 PopTech Social Innovation Fellows. Paul understands that solar energy incurs an upfront cost that is too high for most users. So he and the team Simpa created the Simpa Regulator, which allows users to pay for the cost of a solar home system over time. Simpa smartly pegs its prices to be the same as kerosene, which most people at the BoP use for energy. This way, the Simpa Regulator not only delivers energy affordably, but it also delivers clean energy that isn’t damaging to personal health or the environment.  Even better, Simpa’s light from SELCO-India’s solar panels is brighter than a kerosene lamp. Consumers get a safer and longer-lasting energy source for the same up-front price and ultimately spend less money over time.

Pay-As-You-Go Makes Solar Accessible in Emerging Markets” by Sami Grover on TreeHugger
Simpa is not the only company offering pay-as-you-go models. A company called Eight19 creates solar film – or printable solar panels. In partnership with Solar Aid, the pair has developed IndiGo, a charging technology that is specifically designed to be affordable for the BoP. Users can add credit to their IndiGo box by using the codes sent to their mobile phones after purchase. Like Simpa’s Regulator, this model allows users to pay for their energy over time without the initial upfront cost.

Impact Investing in Energy Enterprises:  A Three-Act Play” by Christine Eibs Singer, Executive Summary on the E+Co Blog
Christine Eibs Singer, the co-founder and CEO of E+Co, recently published a case study for the MIT Innovations Journal’s latest edition – SOCAP11: Impact Investing Special Edition. An executive summary is available on the E+Co blog. In the Case Study, Singer looks at the different stages that E+Co has gone through, and how the organization got to where it is now. E+CO started before “impact investing” was a buzz word. Despite the merge of impact-focused funding vehicles, the goal has always been to help energy enterprises grow and prove their worth, and ultimately create impact for the BoP.  The full journal is available on Amazon and contains articles from many other industry experts including Kevin Doyle Jones, Phillip Auerswald, Antony Bugg-Levine, Mario Morino, and Ross Baird.

Nepal on track to achieve MDGs: PM” on The Himalayan Times
The UN’s Millennium Development Goals seek to halve poverty by 2015. The Prime Minister of Nepal, Dr. Baburam Bhattari, noted that his country’s achievement of the MDGs is largely hindered by energy poverty, and in a broader sense, a lack of technology and innovation. Energy poverty occurs when there is limited or no access to electricity for cooking, heating, cooling, and/or lighting. Many people at the BoP in Nepal use unsustainable and harmful energy sources like kerosene. The Prime Minister addressed the “Sustainable Energy for All: Water, Food, and Energy Security” session at a UN Roundtable, where he suggested that the Nepalese government is accelerating efforts to scale sustainable energy solutions to fight against poverty.

Can Microgrids Eliminate Energy Poverty?” by Christine Hertzog on The Energy Collective
A staggering 2.4 billion people in the world live in energy poverty – a way of life that is very unfamiliar to us in the United States. Almost a third of the world’s population lives with very limited or no access to electricity. This means that the time they can spend working or studying is limited, and it affects everything from cooking to communication to refrigeration. In other articles this week we discussed pay-as-you-go solar as a solution. Another solution to help bring energy access to the BoP is microgrids. General MicroGrids, Inc. is a company founded by Terry Mohn who is also the Co-Chair of the UN Foundation’s MicroGrid Work Group. He hopes that the company can deliver affordable and renewable energy to eliminate energy poverty and contribute to the goals outlined by the UN Campaign of Sustainable Energy For All.  The three main goals that the UN is promoting to achieve by 2030 are: “1) Achieve universal access to modern energy serves; 2) improve global energy intensity by 40 percent; and 3) Produce at least 30 percent of the world’s energy from renewable sources.” Microgrids , according to Mohn, are a technological answer and solution that can meet the UN’s goals for energy.